Fifty percent of Swedes are now either overweight or obese. Various shopkeepers and checkout girls along the E4 coast road certainly gave credibility to that report. It seemed the more northerly I progressed, the more kilos the locals carried. Yet one petrol station just outside Umeå bucked the trend.
Motorway service stations in the UK, whilst improving, still have something of the 70s about them. Little Chef’s abound, clogging up the nation’s arteries (both automobile and human) with their overpriced fried breakfasts.
Walking into what appeared to be a ‘Welcome Break’ equivalent was like stepping into a parallel universe. Stylish Swedes swished around the airy cafeteria sipping coffee and browsing upmarket Scandinavian homeware. A whole clan of Swedes had congregated for a pow-wow.
Feeling slightly out of place in my 3-day-old fatigues, I beat a hasty exit and returned to the never-ending E4.
Chugging further northward, the dwellings would thin out for a few miles, cluster briefly into rough encampments, then thin out again. Buildings of all shapes and sizes hold one thing in common, they’re all painted the same distinctive colour. Falu Rödfärg is a paint that consists of tailings from the copper mines of Falun. It allows the wood to breathe and moisture to evaporate quickly, thus minimising the risk of rot. Perfect for those long winters.
There’s less and less people this far north, stylish, obese or otherwise, and these cosy wooden structures are reminders of man’s ingenuity and adaptability. The colour is handsome and the silicates contained in the pigment cause the houses to glow in the evening sun, giving the impression of scores of welcoming campfires dotted up and down the hillsides